September 17th 2019
Keyed to the slogan “diversity and harmony,” the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are being ballyhooed as events that will spur the creation of an inclusive society here in Japan. However, we must question whether those running the games have truly dedicated themselves to this goal.
For example, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has not created any Braille materials or audio CD guides on how to buy event tickets, creating a barrier for anyone with a visual impairment who wants to get a seat. The first ticket lottery for fans in Japan is already finished. There will likely be a second, but the organizing committee appears unenthusiastic about providing Braille or prepared audio materials for visually impaired would-be customers, stating that “the official ticket sales site is compatible with text-to-speech software … and there is a phone number for those requiring consideration.”
However, there are some people who are not used to navigating the internet. Furthermore, the process for getting tickets is complex and involves absorbing a mountain of information. It is very valuable to have Braille materials that can be read easily at any time. Wisdom and expertise are also needed to create ways to communicate the information in ways that are easy to understand.
The organizing committee guidelines state that “it is desirable that all public documents be available in Braille, text files, large-font text and audio formats.” In other words, it is necessary to provide information in diverse ways, and the committee should respect this core aim of their own guidelines.
We understand that when it comes to ticket sales, the holding of a second lottery and other facets of the process can be fluid. The organizing committee has pointed out that it would be difficult to amend Braille explanatory materials once they had been printed and distributed. People with visual impairments already have a hard time accessing information, and to cut them off from avenues to participate in this momentous event is very strange indeed.
The games are an opportunity for everyone — with a disability or not — to participate together, whether as an athlete or a member of the cheering crowd. The creation of an environment that guarantees this opportunity is the inclusive legacy that these games ought to pass down to the next generation.
First of all, games information not subject to change should be made available in Braille and audio formats, for example what events will be held when and where, and how to get there. The organizing committee could take a page from the Tokyo Disney Resort, which provides park maps in Braille for free.
Even for details that could shift, is it not possible to make Braille or audio explanations on how to get the most up-to-date information on the web? The organizing committee needs to take the voices of disabled people’s organizations seriously.
After the lack of materials for the visually impaired came to light, the organizing committee put the phone service number for fans with disabilities at the top of the Paralympic ticket sakes site. The committee has said the number of telephone inquiries has since increased. Further measures should be undertaken through a process of trial and error, right up until the curtain falls on the final day of the games.